‘D’Yer Wanna Be A Spaceman?’, 1994 (Shakermaker)
It’s 20 years since Oasis formed and to celebrate we’re rounding up the 20 best B-sides from the band. And first up, the pick of the crop from their debut single, this jolly, optimistic strummer.
‘Take Me Away’, 1994 (‘Supersonic’)
Oasis were famed for their B-sides in the early days, which would regularly see them strip things back and delve into a softer side where Noel would often take lead vocals. So sat behind the swagger of ‘Supersonic’ was this fragile, romantic offering.
‘Cloudburst’, 1994 (‘Live Forever’)
Oasis at their most psychedelic, all waves of fuzzy guitar in that nodded back to the baggy era just a few years before, but with all the spirit and confidence in Liam’s vocal that marked them out as something really special.
‘Fade Away’, 1994 (‘Cigarettes And Alcohol’)
A pared-down re-recorded version of this would later appear on War Child’s ‘Help’. But in its original guise, behind their hymn to booze and fags, it snarled with spiky new-wave guitar and the classic Liam snarl.
‘Half The World Away’, 1994 (‘Whatever’)
This gorgeous and plaintive acoustic ballad gained a whole new lease of life of its own, when it as picked up as the theme tune for longrunning sitcom The Royle Family.
‘(It’s Good) To Be Free’, 1994 (‘Whatever’)
Back in the glory days, each single had three B-sides, most of which could have passed for singles in their own right. Which was certainly the case in the case of ‘Whatever’’s bumper package.
‘Acquiesce’, 1995 (‘Some Might Say’)
“Because we need each other, we believe in one another.” Liam and Noel’s brotherly bond has been the most explosive love-hate saga in modern music. But their fiery connection was immortalised in this cloudbursting classic.
‘Talk Tonight’, 1995 (‘Some Might Say’)
Another from ‘Some Might Say’, this was one of the classic early acoustic tracks where Noel took lead vocals. It was inspired by the band’s first big bust-up in LA in 1984, when Noel fled to San Francisco and a female acquaintance ‘talked him off the ledge’.
‘Headshrinker’, 1995 (‘Some Might Say’)
Incredibly, the third B-side from ‘Some Might Say’ was another stone cold classic. This time they leaned towards punk and fuzz, rocking probably harder than they ever would again, as Liam sang an impassioned plea to an impossible girl.
‘Rockin’ Chair’, 1995 (‘Roll With It’)
And the unbroken run of extended play greatness would continue though all the singles from ‘(What’s The Story) Morning Glory)’. This time with this plaintive bliss-out, which manages melancholy but with a classically Oasis thrust.
‘The Masterplan’, 1995 (‘Wonderwall’)
This uplifting, orchestral masterpiece is considered to be one of the greatest B-sides by any band ever, better than many of their singles. So it was given the honour of being the title track of their 1998 B-sides compilation, where fans could vote for the tracklisting.
‘Round Are Way’, 1995 (‘Wonderwall’)
And in contrast, the other gem from the ‘Wonderwall’ package was this impossibly joyful romp, all soaring brass sections and “la la las” as Liam roars, “the birds sing for ya, ‘cause they already know ya!” The mis-spelling was inspired by Slade.
‘Step Out’, 1995 (‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’)
This little belter owed such a cheeky debut to Steve Wonder’s ‘Uptight’ that Noel was compelled to give a writing credit and royalty share to that song’s composers.
‘Stay Young’, 1997 (‘D’You Know What I Mean?’)
‘Be Here Now’ might have marked the onset of drab excess into the Oasis canon, but you wouldn’t have known it from the upbeat rock’n’roll nursery rhyme that backed its lead single, “Hey, stay young and invincible!”
‘Angel Child’, 1977 (‘D’You Know What I Mean?’)
The other B-side from the first single from the third album is in just as stark a contrast to the lurching A-side. A simple stripped down demo with a Noel vocal in the vein of the early days, it’s a shame it was never recorded in a complete version.
‘Going Nowhere’, 1997 (‘Stand By Me’)
But elsewhere, it was obvious that things were starting to get to Noel. There’s a gorgeous Bacharach quality going on, but there’s a desperation that’s quite out of character. It’s actually the sound of a mid-life crisis, “gonna get me a motor car… wanna be wild ‘cause my life’s so tame… here am I growing older in the rain.”
‘Let’s All Make Believe’, 2000 (‘Go Let It Out’)
‘Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants’ didn’t quite restore Oasis’ prowess either, but they were still capable of turning out a killer B-side. This hidden gem has a spectral, hypnotic quality to it, but it spoke of tensions in the band: “Let’s all make believe / That we’re still friends / And we like each other”
‘(As Long As They’ve Got) Cigarettes In Hell’, 2000 (‘Go Let It Out’)
Just as on this second track from the same package, the kind of ballad that Noel still excels in on his own, but there was a more experimental aura to this low-key reflection on mortality: “I don’t mind not going to heaven as log as they’ve got cigarettes in hell.”
‘Idler’s Dream’, 2002 (‘The Hindu Times’)
Oasis aren’t known for their piano ballads, but they showed ‘A’ for them whenever they tried, as once again an underwhelming single was backed with a much better song. The way Oasis B-sides usually showcase the depth behind the bluster was rarely deeper than here.
‘Just Getting Older’, 2002 (‘The Hindu Times’)
Well indeed, he certainly is, but we still like him. Happy Birthday Noel!